Stranded in Space: How ‘Lifeline’ Stole My Heart

Lifeline

Before now, the only app games I’ve played have been Angry Birds and Temple Run, so I’m not exactly well-versed in the art of playing games on my phone. That being said, I might just be sold on the idea. Lifeline is an app for iOS and Android (price ranging from totally free to around $1), and it is one of the most engaging and satisfying games I’ve played in a long time. Developed by 3 Minute Games, Lifeline is a genre-bending sci-fi RPG survival horror story mashup … thing. And it’s really, really good.

The game begins when you are contacted by Taylor, a gender non-specific astronaut who is the sole survivor of a disastrous crash on some far-flung moon, and as Taylor’s only point of contact, it’s your job to keep them alive. The narrative is structured much like a choose-your-own-adventure story where you’ll be confronted with situations and given two options to pick from. It’s exactly the right balance of plot and interactivity to keep you entertained. Some of these choices are easy and conversational, and some are much more serious. Sometimes you’ll find yourself confidently deciding on one, where others you’ll be second-guessing both yourself and the game.

A lot of these situations rely heavily on tried-and-true horror tropes, with Taylor hearing strange noises in the dark and wondering whether to investigate or get the hell out of dodge. But although this could have gone either way, it’s actually something I really loved, because the game is extremely genre-savvy. Taylor will even point out the similarities to a horror movie; “Right now, I’m the idiot on the screen.”

In practice, this basically means that Lifeline knows exactly how to play off your expectations in order to subvert them. You’ll have to balance objective logic with your gut instinct, and often, the choices that everything is telling you are stupid—the game and Taylor themselves, included—turn out to be right on the money.

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Pick Your Poison: Character Creation & The Gender Binary

Dragon Age

Any game that allows me to customize eye color, hairstyle, and nose size is the game for me. Theres a reason why I lost literally years of my life playing The Sims 2, and its the same reason why I have ten different Inquisitors but only one completed game of Dragon Age: Inquisition. I just love making a wide range of characters, all complete with painstakingly imagined backstories and carefully styled cheekbones. But every time I open up a game with character creation, be it Skyrim or Fallout 3, Im faced with a horrible choice: man or woman? What I pick here will affect clothing, hairstyles, voice, body shape, and pronouns. That is an awful lot to have riding on this question considering that, for me, there is no right answer.

Of course, not all OCs are meant to represent the player themselves. I love inventing characters to inhabit a game, and there’s no reason why they have to share my gender experience. But it’s a bummer to never even have the option of seeing yourself represented canonically. So this is where headcanons come in. Headcanons are great, and outwardly gender-conforming nonbinary folks do exist and do count, so this is totally possible. But as LGBTQIA+ people spend so much of our time headcanoning characters as queer and so little of our time getting official representation, that gets real old real fast.

The thing is, if you can play as any number of made-up races, but not as anything even approximating your own gender, it’s incredibly isolating. Its like the devs are saying, “Yes, cat people and giants and aliens and nuclear fallout Romans all totally exist, but a trans gamer who wants to play as someone the same gender as them? That would be Too Far.” I’m not asking for much—Id just really like to be able to play a game where my elf who fights dragons and shoots lightning bolts from their fingertips actually shared my pronouns in-game for once.

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5 Great Games With Local Co-Op on Next-Gen

Octodad: Dadliest Catch

Nothing quite beats the giddy hilarity that is playing games with someone right next to you. You laugh, you cry, you want to strangle them—its great. The last generation of consoles gave us a really fab spread of couch co-op games, from the riotous Castle Crashers to the infuriating Cloudberry Kingdom. But now, two years after the release of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, its time for the old favorites to move over: a new generation of local multiplayer games is finally here.

1. Octodad: Dadliest Catch

Players: 1-2

This game is the hilariously silly sequel to the hilariously silly Octodad. You play as an octopus masquerading as a human, which is just as absurd and fabulous as it sounds. Its in the same vein as games like QWOP, Surgeon Simulator, and I Am Bread in that the fun is in the controls. You control each arm and leg separately—and if youre playing co-op, each of you has one arm and one leg. Suddenly, even a simple task like crossing a room can result in endless flailing and the utter destruction of the set. Glass shatters, tables upend, and no one thinks it’s odd that you leave a trail of chaos in your wake. Its ridiculous and charming, tricky enough that youll spend much of the game flopping around bonelessly, but easy enough once you get the hang of it that youll never be truly frustrated.

Continue reading “5 Great Games With Local Co-Op on Next-Gen”

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